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UFOs over Yeisk, Russia

There have been a number of UFO sightings and crop circles reported in the Russian city of Yeisk during the last century. After the fall of the Soviet Union, an active UFO-research group, headed by Yuri Stroganov (now a journalist) was established in Yeisk.

Some years ago I received an interesting confirmation about UFO sightings from Yeisk, and a very coherent explanation as to the nature of the objects.

A prominent Russian UFO researcher, author, and journalist Mikhail Gershtein sent it to me, and I want to share it.

The port at Yeisk. (Credit: Fenol/Skyscrapercity.com)
The port at Yeisk. (Credit: Fenol/Skyscrapercity.com)

In 1960, a group of Soviet army cadets observed anomalous phenomena in the sky. They decided to write a letter about it to the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper.

The letter contained the following:

September 10, 1960

Dear Editors:

We are residents of Yeisk. We are asking you to explain an unusual phenomenon. In August of 1960, by chance, twice we have observed flight of a celestial object. On September 9, at 20:15 (Moscow time), the flight again took place, from west to east. The heavenly body was of an average size. The speed of its flight was less than that of a satellite.

The flight lasted 8 to 12 minutes.

Here is what was unusual about it:

1) It flew sideways from the observers ;

2) Its luminescence was flickering;

3) Its movement was curvilinear

What could it have been? Would we be able to observe it again?


On behalf of a group of army cadets,

Kozlov Valery, Barilin Igor

Our address is:

City of Yeisk, VVOL, Stalin Street, K-1-V

On September 16, 1960, the editors of the Krasnaya Zvezda sent the letter they received from Yeisk to the Moscow Planetarium. They requested that the Planetarium scientists reply to the letter.

Sometime later (the date is not indicated), the Moscow Planetarium sent a reply to the cadets.

Dear comrades Kozlov and Barilin!

The phenomenon you had observed was one of the experiments to study the upper layers of the atmosphere. Such research was described in Priroda magazine, Issue 5, 1959; pp. 74-76.


Lecturer Tsigankova.

Another letter from the Planetarium to Krasnaya Zvezda stated the following:

Dear Editors!

As to your inquiry, we are informing you that the comrades who sent you the letters had observed research projects, planned through the program of the International Geophysics Year. The purpose of the projects was the study of our planet Earth as a whole; scientists from over 66 countries had participated, including Soviet scientists.



While the explanation offered by Soviet scientists was probably correct, other anomalous phenomena sighted over the city and in its fields cannot be easily explained.

The Yeisk Air Force Academy and VM Komarov Higher Military Aviation School, and 959th Training Regiment are located in the city.  The Aviation School had trained such prominent personalities as the Cuban astronaut Arnaldo Tamayo-Mendez, and the former Commander of Ukrainian Air Force Viktor Strelnikov .  Yeisk is located in Southern Russia. The Krasnodar Krai, of which Yeisk is a part, is a region of great economic significance for Russia. The Krai (region) contains transportation infrastructure vital to Russian and Caspian Basin energy exports. It is also an important agricultural area and lies in Russia’s fertile Black Earth zone.

Yeisk Air Force Academy (Credit: wikimapia.org)
Yeisk Air Force Academy (Credit: wikimapia.org)

Yeisk, 1991

In the summer of 1991, on August 16, Maxim Churbakov, a cadet of the Yeisk Military Aviation School, took off on his third solo flight. The engine of his airplane functioned for just fourteen minutes and then it stalled. Churbakov reported to the flight control: “Forty-second, engine shutdown, altitude 1400, r.p.m. down to 20 percent.”

On the ground they were unable to find a solution to the problem at once, and the cadet had to make a decision himself. Fifty-seconds after the engine shutdown he reported: “I am preparing to eject and am turning away from the town.”

At the moment of ejection, the plane was over a body of water. Soon a fishing boat picked up Maxim. Meanwhile, on the shore his plane was in flames.

In this case no UFO was involved. In the newspaper of the military district there soon appeared a snapshot of Maxim with his flying instructor, and the correspondent quoted the words of the area commander Air Force Major General V. Mihailov: “You know, when I first heard about this accident in the air training regiment, I was upset. It’s a pity to lose an expensive machine. But when I established all the circumstances of the incident, when I had spoken to the cadet, and listened to the tape of the radio traffic, I was even glad. I felt much better about it. What fine people we have!”

After this rejoicing over the cadet’s composure and presence of mind, the general gave instructions that a copy of that tape should be used as a training aid…so that other future pilots should learn from it how to behave in emergencies.

The correspondent concluded his article on the optimistic note: “…after the necessary medical examination Maxim will return to his flight training. And, I am certain he will become a fine pilot.”

Recent images of the Yeisk (Yeysk) Russian air base. Its proximity to Ukraine has gotten the base a lot of recent attention. (Credit: Digital Globe)
Recent images of the Yeisk (Yeysk) Russian air base. Its proximity to Ukraine has gotten the base a lot of recent attention. (Credit: Digital Globe)

The newspaper appeared on August 27, but Maxim was a short-lived hero…for only one day. To be more exact, until August 28, when at 5:31 p.m., during another training flight, at an altitude of 4000 meters, he saw an orange sphere. The object was similarly above the clouds, somewhat on his starboard side, and Maxim immediately reported it to the flight control. Meanwhile, the sphere had begun approaching him, increasing to two meters in diameter.

It burned his eyes, and the pilot shut them and lowered his head. (“At first I felt curious, but then I felt dread” Maxim later recalled.)

From Maxim Churbakov’s Report:

I had the feeling that someone was watching me, and there was an unpleasant sensation on the back of my head in the right side. I began lifting my head, but was unable to look–for some reason I experienced a feeling of fear. The “generator” indicator on the emergency panel went on. I began reporting a generator failure, but just then the “fire” warning system went on. I saw a trail of smoke in the wake of the plane. The burning sensation in my eyes increased, and smoke appeared in the cockpit. I began extinguishing the fire, and reported everything to the flight control.

I was ordered to eject. I declined to do so, because I saw a large populated center in front. The “fire” warning light continued to blink. I went into a glide toward the fields. My eyes hurt badly, and because of tears in them I could not see well. Much of the radio traffic was incomprehensible. Someone was intervening in the radio exchange, and sometimes there was nothing but a screeching sound in the earphones. The plane was difficult to control, and its speed fluctuated plus-minus 100 kilometers. At an altitude of 1000 meters I ejected and came down in a field of maize.

On the ground the cadet was regarded with unconcealed suspicion. To wreck two military planes in a row was no laughing matter. A week later the area commander came to the hospital where the recent hero was being examined. To start with, the commander debunked his recent act of heroism, saying that the engine of his plane had been shut down by the cadet himself and had not stalled. The general admitted that he had been hasty in commending the future pilot.  Actually, General Mihailov said some more things.

From Maxim Churbakov’s Report:

He said they had found an aluminum wire, which I had supposedly wound around the autopilot switch. And while doing so, I had let go of the control stick. The commander said that all this had been proved and there was no point in my denying it. If I did not confess, the documents would be sent to the prosecutor’s office.

Such “cordial” discussions were conducted with him more than once. In the end, criminal proceedings were instituted against him. It was soon after that his mother, in tears, and her visibly upset son arrived at the Russian UFO Center (SOYUZUFOTSENTR at the time), begging its researchers to find an explanation of the mysterious sphere. Maxim was accused of deliberately destroying expensive machinery. He was to be made a scapegoat. The military authorities informed the mother that Maxim, a young man, can spend the next ten years in prison, and still be only 29 at the end of his sentence.  Zinaida Ivanovna, Maxim’s mother, did not want her son to spend even a day in prison. Maxim was already expelled from the Yeisk Military Aviation School (visscheye voyennoye aviatzionnoye uchilische, a prestigious institution), and sent to serve in the army.

Several Russian ufologists initiated an investigation of their own. They recalled a similar case in the Soviet Union in 1981. In October of that year Air Force pilot V. Korotkov was flying his MIG, when suddenly a glowing sphere, approximately five meters in diameter, appeared in front of it. For a few minutes it accompanied the fighter. As a result, the radio communication system ceased operating, fuel combustion was disturbed, and the engine shut down. Then, the sphere shifted toward the tail unit. There was an explosion that damaged the fin, and after that the sphere vanished from view. The engine began functioning again, and the airplane made a safe landing.

Experts investigating this incident arrived at the conclusion that the entire blame rested with glowing plasma. It ionized the air, and a powerful electric charge built up on the plane’s skin, exploding and fusing part of the fin. It too could have caused the engine shutdown.

Map marking the location of Yeisk. (Credit: Google Maps)
Map marking the location of Yeisk. (Credit: Google Maps)

The investigators at the SOYUZUFOTSENTR also reviewed many facts on record of car engines stopping when a UFO appeared in the vicinity. Ufologists know, too, that the effects of UFOs extend not just to human beings, who experience a burning sensation in their eyes, temporary blindness, and shed tears. They also affect machinery, electrical equipment being particularly vulnerable. As for what happened to Churbakov, the area where the incident occurred – the boundary between Rostov region and Krasnodar Krai – is well-known as one where there have been frequent UFO sightings. In fact, one of the most active Russian ufologists resides in Yeisk, and has published articles about Russian military studies of UFOs. His name is Yuri Stroganov, and his research work is widely known and respected throughout the world.  Yuri sent an interesting piece of information to the Russian Ufology Research Center (the information was later confirmed by Alexei Burenin, a top Russian chemical engineer).

In 1992, a UFO landing was reported from the Two Sisters hill near the town of Belaya Kalitva in the Rostov region. At the site, a circle 9 meters in diameter was discovered, and there was a black deposit in the soil.

An analysis of rock samples from the Two Sisters hill performed at a laboratory in the city of Rostov revealed that the samples were of a brittle porous mass, yellowish brown on fracture and with traces of thermal effects (fused and enriched with manganese and iron) on the surface.

The surface changes in the samples were 2-3 mm deep, and the manganese content in these layers was hundreds of times higher than in samples of the rock proper.

The first report about Maxim Churbakov’s misfortune arrived from Russia in 1992.  Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch, a Russian military newspaper) carried an article titled “An orange sphere against fighter airplane.”  The author, Y. Leonidov, was clearly moved by the young pilot’s story. He asked the military investigators to pay attention to the information about UFOs that has come down from such “heights” as the Air Force Colonel General I. Maltsev. The distinguished Russian general had revealed in 1991 that the UFOs encountered by Soviet fliers had possessed great maneuverability, as if lacking any inertia. The aircraft on our planet, added Maltsev, did not possess such capabilities.

In 1992, Y. Leonidov was not very hopeful that Maxim would be set free.

Two years later everything changed. The investigators of the Russian UFO Center had completed their work. Y. Leonidov published excerpts of the investigation in the UFO Center’s newspaper.

MiG-29 stationed at the Yeisk air base. (Credit: Planespotters.net)
MiG-29 stationed at the Yeisk air base. (Credit: Planespotters.net)

From the conclusion of the UFO center:

Having examined the documents and circumstances relating to the event, the commission considers that during the flight there was a typical encounter with a UFO. The data of the UFO center confirm the diversity of the effects of unidentified objects on people and machinery. The most frequent of these are effects of electric equipment (as a rule, it switches off). In the case of human beings, it is the organs of vision that are affected first.

The Churbakov case was examined not only at the UFO Center. The findings of the ufologists were confirmed by S. Kuzionov and Y. Raitorovsky, two well-known Russian anomalous phenomena investigators. The experts tested the cadet by subjecting him to retrospective hypnosis.

Here is an excerpt from the affidavit issued by the experts (as reported by Y. Leonidov):

Maxim Churbakov was guided by common sense and acted in line with the circumstances that arose. This is a normal reaction to such an event. His account is absolutely truthful, and the accuracy of his description in his report of what happened cannot be questioned.

In conclusion, here is another document.

From the decision to dismiss the criminal case:

An analysis of the evidence submitted justifies the conclusion that the stimulation of engine shutdowns and a fire during M. Churbakov’s flights on August 16 and 28, 1991, took place not because of his will or desire; therefore his actions implied no breaches of flight regulations, and the criminal case against Churbakov shall be dismissed owing to the absence of any crime in his acts.

The story of the encounter between Maxim Churbakov and a UFO had a happy end, after all.  The former pilot escaped imprisonment.  Also, because he was expelled from the  uchilische, Maxim did not become a military pilot, and escaped the war in Chechnya. The encounter with a UFO turned out to be very auspicious for Maxim, after all.

Paul Stonehill

Paul Stonehill is the author of The Soviet UFO Files (1998), Paranormal Mysteries of Eurasia (2010), and co-author of several books with Philip Mantle.

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